Questions and Chaos

Life in the 21st Century

Life Without Death

Friday, November 9, 2007

Every biological creature, every living thing that has ever existed eventually dies. It’s a fact of existence for all living entities of any size and shape. Whether it’s a single celled bacterium, an elephant, a sequoia tree or a human being, death is its common and unavoidable destiny. How is it that human beings have become so attached to the belief that “people shouldn’t die?”

When we imagine life without death, we imagine that we would just keep on doing what we’re doing indefinitely. However, when we look at ourselves from an evolutionary perspective it is actually death that drives life. Without the threat of death we would not be what we are. All of our experiences and activities have evolved from the need to gather energy. Life is the drive to sustain our energy and fend off death. Without the existence of death none of these activities would be necessary.

If we did not die we would not need to reproduce. All the experiences we consider most precious and meaningful would not exist. There would be no need for attraction and sex and all the drama we create with those experiences. There would be no generations of children, parents and grandparents. Family relationships and rituals would never have evolved. There would be no weddings, graduations, bar mitzvahs or family feuds. Passing our life to the next generation has created our most meaningful relationships and activities. Without death, there would be no need for any of them.

All of our needs originate from the avoidance of death. Without death there would be no need to sleep, to wake up or even to breathe. Without the need for food and security there would be no reason to work, no reason to move at all, really. We would have no need to build, to create or to develop technologies. Without a need for relationships or creativity, communication would not be necessary. There would be no languages, no songs, no stories and no religions.

If we did not die what kind of existence would we have? Would it be fair to say that we would not live? Would we perhaps have an existence more like that of a rock? In a paradoxical way it is actually death that drives life. It is our avoidance of death that fuels our creativity and our cultures and gives meaning to life.

It is ironic that our fear and hatred of death often translates into a fear and hatred of life. The war machine is sent out when people are afraid of death. Death is hidden away in our society. Death might make us notice how unhappy and empty our lives feel. Some people who have faced chronic illness have said that it was the best thing that ever happened to them, because it motivated them to appreciate and love life. Death is the boundary that makes life real and precious.

Dedicated to,and inspired by, my dear canine friend, Tara, who is hobbling about exuberantly, with terminal bone cancer.


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November 18, 2007 @ 3:43 am

[…] Helga Sombrofsky presents Life Without Death posted at Questions and Chaos, saying, “A look at death from a biological perspective. How it has been necessary for our evolution.” […]

Comment by James

November 21, 2007 @ 9:26 am

Interesting perspective. Total bunk, though, sorry.

It’s one thing to state that, “this is how things are, and why.” It’s quite another thing entirely to use that statement as the rationale for “this is how things should be, just accept it.”

Any sentient being that believes in the concept of self-determination should reject your argument. If choosing not to die were one of the available options, any being possessed of rational thought and free will should be allowed to choose it. Many would.

You could argue that this is against nature, even destructive. You might even be right. If the inherent correctness of a given position was the only factor determining its acceptance by the greater society, that would be the end of the story. Obviously, given the reality of pollution, environmental destruction, and the squandering of natural resources, being “right” isn’t enough. Right or wrong, if people could chose not to die, they would.

Thing about dying is, you only get to do it once, and once you’ve done it, there’s no changing your mind afterwards. The whole point of life, as you rightly point out, is to avoid death, or thwart it imperfectly by launching the next generation before the curtain closes on the current one. Vertibrates — higher animals? — don’t seek out death. It comes to them unbidden, and they unwilling participate when they have no remaining alternatives. Only humans have the capacity for the suicidal self-destructiveness and romantic sophistry required to ‘gently go into that good night’. True, some people chose to die to put an end to their suffering — mental, or physical. Cruel as it may be to phrase it this way, the fact is, they’re defective. If they weren’t, they’d still be alive. That’s what death is — the natural end state when a body faces defect(s) from which it cannot recover.

So, A+ for effort. Me, if I could live forever with my family and friends, I think I’d risk it…for a while, at least.

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November 23, 2007 @ 10:08 pm

[…] Helga Sombrofsky presents Life Without Death posted at Questions and Chaos. This article includes her “thoughts on death from a biological perspective.”  I don’t necessarily agree with her point of view, but thought this made for interesting reading. […]

Comment by Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker

November 25, 2007 @ 12:21 am

Without death, we wouldn’t have a way to give value to life. In the world of duality, you can’t have one without the other.

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November 25, 2007 @ 7:00 am

The Humanist Symposium…

Welcome to the 11th Humanist Symposium.
Humanism is a way of thought that affirms the inherent dignity and worth of human life……

Comment by ElArmana

December 21, 2007 @ 8:18 am

without pain no happiness.
Without dead, more people, more polution and such.

Great Blog!!

Comment by Zhou Ya Lei

July 6, 2009 @ 9:33 am

An idle mind dwells too much on the inevitably approaching death; a productive mind never ceases to race againt time to meaningfully live out life.

Your explication on the meaning of life desensitizes me against death. It even adds meaning to my future death and makes it so much meaningful even at the end of it !

Comment by ryan

July 30, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

“We would have no need to build, to create or to develop technologies. Without a need for relationships or creativity, communication would not be necessary. There would be no languages, no songs, no stories and no religions.”

I would have to agree with most of your suggestions except the quote above. Death to most people is the one great fear. But what they truly fear is loneliness.

When I am in the moment not feeling tired, hungry, thirsty or uncomfortable I still seek to communicate with others. True we no longer need to help those who no longer need help in any way, but you are not ruling out the possibility that those who are immortal help those who are not. Help = work = losing yourself = finding yourself. But then again, that would be thought provoking if no one ever needed our help and all we did was float in a state of moratorium. Then I would agree with all of your statements. That would just suck. (Sorry for lack of better words)

Comment by Uroboros

August 12, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

I think the point of what is being said is that if death -never- existed in the first place, nothing would matter. There would be no family for nobody would be able to reproduce, due to the lack of a need to. Friendship, love, hate, associations, all can be atributed as a way to avoid death or unpleasentries that may lead to death, and as such would mean nothing without the concept or reality of death. Our bodies, our emotions, none of it would exist unless something could die.

The concept of Immortality imo, is completely different than the concept of life without death, as life and death still exist in the world of the immortal, and thus the immortal’s life has meaning through the mortality of the world around him/her. Anyone who could choose immortality would, but if you’ve lived a mortal life long enough, and had your experiances, you might feel differently.

An odd thought– perhaps you could say God has no physical appearance or form of direct communication due to a lack of need, for he has no fear of death, as he is the end result. Without death, there is no life. Without life, there is nothing. So would God be “nothing”? Of course, the concept of God is somewhat contradictory when speaking of death, since it is said that he always was, and thus can never die. Which is unfathomable how that could possibly end up happening.. of course there again, it never “happened” it simply was. -.- *sigh* I guess that’s why it is said to just simply believe. You can’t rationalize God.

Comment by SKF

June 27, 2012 @ 7:36 pm

That was absolutely beautiful. I have tears streaming down my face as I think of my family and my loving dog, Raisin.

Comment by Anonymous

July 1, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

Thanks so much. Nice to know people are still reading

Comment by Nicola burgun

April 29, 2017 @ 2:50 pm

I just have to say that this has really inspired me! My husband and myself are sat watching a disaster movie and for myself, being fiecly scared of death have had an anxiety attack about dying. So I googled ‘life without death’ and read this! Thank you for your perspective and sharing it! It actually makes perfect sense ?

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